The Queens Speech
At the state opening of Parliament last month, the Queen set out the new government’s plan for their first year in office. The following proposed Bills may have a potential impact on the lives of disabled children.
The Childcare Bill
The Childcare Offer will extend free childcare for three and four year-olds to 30 hours a week for working parents. Every Disabled Child Matters, together with Contact A Family and the Family and Childcare Trust, welcomed extra support for families with childcare costs but expressed concern that families with disabled children would not benefit without tackling barriers to accessing provision. The Parliamentary Inquiry into Childcare for Disabled Children (2014) found that many families with disabled children can’t access the current offer of 15 free hours a week, as they struggle to find suitable providers to meet the needs of their child.
The Education and Adoption Bill
The Education and Adoption Bill will mean that the government has more power to intervene in “failing schools”. The government insists this would lead to greater accountability and help achieve the best outcomes for children and young people with SEND. However, in an increasingly autonomous education sector, there are concerns about accountability in the academies programme, where the Department for Education and the Education Funding Agency are required to hold thousands of schools to account.
The Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill
The Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill sets out plans to provide more job security particularly for young people. However, the question of how government will support disabled young people and those with special educational needs into employment is still unclear. Supported internships for disabled young people was high on the agenda in last government, with £5m funding allocated to develop supported internships. Demand for supported internships has been high but access to and availability of suitable placements has been very low.